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Cap d'Espoir (QC035)


Cap d'Espoir (QC035)

Cap d'Espoir, Québec

Latitude 48.404°N
Longitude 64.298°W
Altitude 0 - 15m
Area 55.24km²

Site Description

Cap d' Espoir is situated at the east end of the Gaspé Peninsula, on the Gulf of St Lawrence, 4 km east of the village of Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé. Cap d'Espoir is a rounded point with 15 m high cliffs sharply falling to the sea. However, at low tide, there are a few places where gravel and rock outcrops are exposed. The area is mainly used for agriculture and is privately owned; grasses cover most of the area right up the edge of the cliffs. There is a side road that leads to lighthouse at the end of the tip. This area also includes a freshwater marsh, some woods and shrublands. Marine waters are not deep in this area with an off-shore shoal.


Marine birds in both the summer and winter constitute the main birds of interest at Cap d'Espoir. In winter, tens of thousands of Oldsqaw use the waters off the Cape; in 1992 a high of over 60,000 was estimated. This represents about 2% of the North American population of the species. Also present in winter is a significant portion of the eastern population of Barrow's Goldeneye – in 1985, 57 birds or about 2% of this population were seen. A few of the nationally endangered Harlequin Duck (eastern population) are seen here in the same season.

In the summer, the cliffs hold seven species of cliff-nesting seabirds: Double-crested Cormorants, Great Cormorants (a new nester), Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots and Razorbills. Most numerous are the Black-legged Kittiwake. In 1989, the year of the most recent survey, 4492 pairs of kittiwake occupied the cliffs of Cap d' Espoir, representing about 2% of the western Atlantic population. If a five-year average of the most recent counts is calculated (in this case including surveys as early as 1974), then the average of 2249 pairs represents just under 1% of the, generally increasing, western Atlantic population.

In spring migration, up to 5000 Common Murres have been seen, as have hundreds of scoters (all three species) and eiders which flock together off the point. The site is also frequented regularly by individual Peregrine Falcons and Short-eared Owls in the spring. Both species are listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, as threatened and vulnerable respectively.

Conservation Issues

If more houses are built on top of the Cap d' Espoir, in addition to the one house currently present, the risk of disturbance to the colonies will increase, especially as the site is already visited by ecotourists in summer.

This site is part of the Baie des Chaleurs "Zone d' Intervention Prioritaire” (Priority Intervention Area), and World Wildlife Fund and the UQCN (Quebec Union for the Conservation of Nature) recognised that this site had conservation interest by designating it a Natural Site Without Legal Status.

Fish Habitat

This region is typified by a mosaic of habitats which host a wide range of marine and migratory species. The barachois, the eelgrass beds and the river's estuaries are key habitats for many species of fish and shellfish such as sticklebacks, winter flounder and soft-shell clam. At sea, the Atlantic mackerel, the Atlantic herring, the rainbow smelt, the American lobster, the snow crab, the common crab and the scallop are harvested commercially. At the beginning of the summer, capelin is rolling on the beaches to spawn. The presence of several salmon rivers in the area attracts many anglers. These rivers are also home to brook trout and American eel.

The major pressures on the ichthyofauna are overfishing and destruction of fish habitat, such as the draining of wetlands and the modification of the shoreline (erosion, riprap). Forestry is also a threat because it causes significant alterations in the rivers of the area, such as increasing the sediment load, the modification of both water flow and water temperature.

Major species present:
American eel
American sand lance
Atlantic herring
Atlantic mackerel
Atlantic salmon
Atlantic sea scallop
Atlantic tomcod
Blue mussel
Brook trout
Commun crab
Iceland scallop
Rainbow smelt
Soft-shell clam
Winter flounder
Witch flounder

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Number Year Season
34 - 1802016Fall
120 - 6402015Winter
Number Year Season
600 - 1,1102016Fall
Long-tailed Duck
Number Year Season
Black Scoter
Number Year Season
4,898 - 11,6042015Spring
Northern Gannet
Number Year Season
1,785 - 3,1742016Fall
2,000 - 2,5002004Summer
1,000 - 2,0001981Spring
Barrow's Goldeneye
Number Year Season
119 - 1202015Spring